“Thriller Thursdays” – Suspense of “The Bourne Identity” More Complex

Present word count of WIP:  60,234 (Yes, I’ve been dead in the water when it comes to writing…somewhat like Ludlum’s protagonist in the beginning.)

Between the Olympics, gearing up for a book launch and being held in suspense over the final cover of my next novel, it was all I could do to get my reading in, but I did! I actually finished Robert Ludlum’s classic spy thriller, “The Bourne Identity” last Thursday…at about 11:27 pm. Too late to blog about it.

But it gave me time to watch the two movies based on the story. You see, I had thought I’d read this before, but I didn’t remember half of the plot in the book, mainly due to the more recent film version with Matt Damon. The film with Damon was so terrific that it effectively supplanted the plot of the novel in my mind.

Confused, I did a little investigating and came to discover there was a film version put out for television back in the 80’s starring Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith. While it was much truer to the book, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much…and it wasn’t just because of the acting (Jaclyn Smith made me cringe).

 Is that a reflection on Ludlum’s novel? I think so, yes. While his plot is more complex and the writing is tightly-paced (I’ve never seen so many sentence fragments), I began to grow tired of the hero’s struggles to regain his memory. The book was very tied in to current headlines and, having lived through the 80’s, I remember the terrorist/assassin named “Carlos” and how the newspapers bandied about his name every time there was some high-profile attack.

(Spoiler Alert): While the book makes Jason Bourne struggle to come to terms with the possibility that he is this “Carlos,” it eventually clarifies that he isn’t, that he was a good guy working for the U.S. all along, not killing but faking kills in order to draw out the competitive Carlos. While Ludlum writes short sentences, he writes an awful lot of them and, at a certain point, the material just seemed too dense, the psychological struggling too repetitive.

I found the approach taken by Tony Gilroy in the Matt Damon film to be much more compelling: There was no Carlos, or if so, then Jason Bourne (and others like him) filled that role. Bourne was, indeed, a bad guy who did bad things (even if he was brainwashed to do them) and, once he realizes it, he has to find a way to live with himself and try to change his life.

I’m giving it 3.5 stars.

Favorite quote:

“Nothing makes a man more nationalistic than to think his country’s owned by foreigners. He can adjust in time to losing a war–that only means the enemy was stronger–but to lose his economy means the enemy was smarter.”

Next up: Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood…and from what I’ve read so far, I think this will be a 5-star read!

And stay tuned tomorrow. I believe I’ll be unveiling my cover!

Originally posted 2012-08-16 15:21:49.

“Thriller Thursdays” – Sick Suspense of “Kiss the Girls”

Present word count of WIP:  58,116

Sick Suspense. Those are the words that come to mind in describing this psychological thriller by James Patterson.

According to the Oakland Press:

“Move over Thomas Harris, along comes James Patterson. Before you settle into Patterson’s latest book, make sure you’ve got a couple free nights of reading time. It’s the sort of grisly tale that keeps your hands gripping the book and your heart pounding at any unusual noise in the house.”

I beg to differ on two points:

1) Patterson doesn’t hold a candle to Harris.

2) My hands didn’t grip the book nor did my heart pound in fear.

Patterson is not nearly as literary as Harris. He may try to make up for his average writing style with extra graphic descriptions, but that only served to make me feel sick. I almost gave up on the book twice. The only reason I skimmed ahead was to see if my hunch about one of the perpetrators, Casanova, was correct. It wasn’t, so at least he kept me guessing, but the surprise at the end kind of came out of left field. Not so satisfying.

Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross in the movie version

I know many are enamored with his main character, Alex Cross, an African-American detective and psychologist, but I thought the character of Kate McTiernan, the victim that manages to escape more than once, much more intriguing. This is the third book in a row by a male author on this list in which the female main character is as strong, if not stronger, than the male. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a given in successful suspense.

Ashley Judd as Dr. Kate McTiernan

The only thing I really liked about this book?

His first line:

“For three weeks, the young killer actually lived inside the walls of an extraordinary fifteen-room beach house.”

Now, that’s spooky. That conjured up all kinds of scenarios in my head.

Do you think suspense novels are best when they describe everything in graphic detail, or leave that kind of stuff to your imagination?


Originally posted 2012-07-26 06:00:53.

“Thriller Thursdays” – Slow Suspense of That Tattooed Girl

Present word count of WIP:  57,034

Stieg Larsson’s original version of the suspense novelThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was to have been titled Men Who Hate Women (in Swedish, of course). And that may be all you need to know in order to look beyond the plot in this story for a theme.

While it has been praised all over the world and even won several awards, I have to say I was disappointed. After having just read The Silence of the Lambs, so tightly written with the type of spare and sometimes poetic prose I love, Larrson’s book felt dense and cumbersome. And I was confused about the quoted statistics regarding violence against women which began each new section…until I discovered his original title. This is definitely a book that is not nice to women, but fortunately an unlikely heroine arises to defend her gender.

Of course, this novel was edited and translated after Larsson died, so who knows how closely it hues to his original vision. It would have been interesting to see how the book might have fared had it been published before the author’s death.

For me, the main problem was that he had a terrific family saga mystery wrapped in the distant world of Swedish high finance. And that’s an Achilles heel for me. Anytime I start reading or hearing about economics, business, and numbers, my eyes glaze over and my brain tends to want to shut off. I would have enjoyed the book a lot more had he minimized the corporate world stuff and amped up the personal family story. (By “amping” I mean increasing the pacing.)

The opening Prologue was terrific because it honed in on the central mystery, intriguing the reader without giving away much. But then the story veered off into the corporate stuff in order to introduce the finance reporter who ends up tasked with solving the family mystery. My interest didn’t pick up again until about 30 pages in when the tattooed girl, Lisbeth Salander, is finally introduced.

Any time she was in a scene I was hooked. Any time she wasn’t, I found myself missing her. She’s that strong of a character. (I wasn’t surprised to learn later in the book that she’s likely on the autism spectrum.) The reporter was really quite bland in comparison and yet he appears to be the protagonist, since he takes up most of the book. Once they’re teamed to solve the mystery of the missing/dead girl (which only happens about two thirds of the way through the book), the pace finally begins to pick up.

Then, after the mystery’s solved, Larsson brings back the corporate stuff so the reporter can get his revenge on the corrupt financier who had sued him in the first place…but it takes away from the power that was in essence returned to women in the conclusion of the mystery.

In sum, I don’t understand why this was the huge hit that it was. The novel was too drawn-out and disjointed for my taste, not to mention it had some offensive scenes I skipped over. I’m giving it three stars.

Still, there were some quotes I liked:

“Normally seven minutes of another person’s company was enough to give her a headache so she set things up to live as a recluse. She was perfectly content as long as people left her in peace. Unfortunately society was not very smart or understanding.”

“Everyone has secrets. It’s just a matter of finding out what they are.”

“Friendship – my definition – is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don’t have trust, the friendship will crumble.”

If you’ve read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I’d love to hear what you thought. Did it hold your interest the whole way? Who was the real protagonist?

Next on my list: James Patterson’s Kiss the Girls . . . I’m expecting a fast read, so I’ll be reviewing it next Thursday.


Originally posted 2012-07-19 11:34:58.

“Thriller Thursdays” – Keys for Suspense

Present word count of WIP:  59,985

How to write “Killer Thrillers” that make readers say, I can’t put the book down because the suspense is killing me?

I hope to come up with answers to that on my own as I read these top thrillers. The Silence of the Lambs was terrific all the way through.

I’ve now begun Stieg Larrson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and honestly found the beginning a bit spotty. The prologue was wonderful (I am not against prologues when they’re done well), but the next 15 pages or so felt info-dumpy…until I got to that girl. You know. The one with the tattoo. Talk about an intriguing character! Now I’m hooked.

Stay tuned. I should have it finished by next Thursday.

In the meantime, here are five suggestions given by novelist Daniel Palmer (son of bestselling writer Michael Palmer) at this year’s Thrillerfest for getting started on writing a “killer thriller.” (I particularly loved the idea of “cannibal stew.”)

What do you think of his suggestions? And do you think prologues get in the way of a good thriller? Do you even read them?

Originally posted 2012-07-12 11:28:55.

“Moleskine Mondays” – “L” is for Library Suspense

Present word count of WIP:  59,985

I LOVE personal libraries for reading suspense or any other type of book. I also happen to love modern architecture, and the Schönberg Residence in Charlotte, NC, designed by Toby Witte and Jahan Nourbakhsh for Dialect Design, just happens to wed the two in an eye-popping manner. Check out this “climbing library.”

Built in 2010, the house certainly stands out in its tree-lined neighborhood, but you can tell from a few different pictures that books mean a lot to this family with three young daughters, aged 4, 7, and 11. I can easily picture a child climbing one step, pulling out a book or two, and settling down to read. Then, upon finishing the books, putting them back (at least any mother would hope they’d pop them back into their shelf before moving on) and climbing up another step or two to settle on cushions and read some more.

Here are two more pictures:

See the red box with the picture window that juts out from the house? That’s the adult reading corner, I believe (whose shelves you get a better view of in the picture just above this one). You can see the kids’ climbing library opposite.

Here’s the designer’s sketch of that whole wall in bas relief:

And here are some closeups of the bookshelves set right into the walls in a way that almost makes them seem portable:

All the photographs are by Armando Bellmas for ArchDaily. As their own review put it:

The “boxes within boxes” construction of recessed shelves reveals shadow lines that seemingly float the shelves inside the library walls…The sheer presence of the climbing library has enriched residential life for the Schönbergs. The family’s emotional center has shifted to the environs of the library while the treasures of their international lives have an ideal place to reside.”

I wasn’t at all surprised to find this house had been “liked” for Facebook by more than half a million viewers, including my brother, David Parker, who is an architect.

Hmmm. He likes it, I like it…and he’s an architect…

Can you guess what I’m thinking?

Originally posted 2012-07-09 13:47:10.

“Thriller Thursdays” – The Suspense of Silence

Present word count of WIP:  59,985

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris contains one line that says it all about suspense novels . . . and harks back to my idea about the connection between suspense and human DNA:

“The washing machine’s rhythm was like a giant heartbeat, and the rush of its waters was what the unborn hear – our last memory of peace.”

Interesting, isn’t it, that our last memory of peace should be filled with noise? A comforting noise we grew used to for months. It’s silence that’s truly frightening.

And that was only one of the several terrific passages in this literary thriller. Here are a few more:

“Back at his chair he cannot remember what he was reading. He feels the books beside him to find the one that is warm.”

“Typhoid and swans – it all comes from the same place.”

“Over this odd world, this half the world that’s dark now, I have to hunt a thing that lives on tears.”

And, finally, this from Dr. Lecter’s last note to Clarice:

“Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming? . . . I won’t be surprised if the answer is yes and no. The lambs will stop for now. But, Clarice, you judge yourself with all the mercy of the dungeon scales at Threave; you’ll have to earn it again and again, the blessed silence. Because it’s the plight that drives you, seeing the plight, and the plight will not end, ever.”

Whether or not you’ve read the book and/or seen the movie, most of you have gathered enough about the plot of this thriller that I don’t think it’s worth summarizing here. Instead, I want to share a few of my basic impressions.

First, the bad language was sprinkled with care, not enough to make me set the gripping read aside. Though the crimes and criminal behavior described in this story are definitely perverse, it wasn’t a gory read. In fact, Harris is a minimalist when it comes to description. He can tell you everything you need to know about a person with one or two sentences, plus great dialogue.

That’s not to say he left out details. The book teemed with all kinds of information, always specific and important–either to the story or a character. In fact, there was so much detail that I simply had to look up the biography of this author. Had he been a former FBI agent? How did he know all this stuff?

The answer: research. As it turns out, his background is in journalism and he once worked a police beat. Still, the amount of research this novel displays, as well as its range and depth, is IMPRESSIVE!!! (And I’m not easily impressed.)

Two things about the writing stood out:

1) I loved the way he used Lecter to help reveal to the reader in a very natural and unforced way the background of FBI trainee, Clarice Starling. Bit by bit, the story gets peeled away for us.

2) There was an interesting switch to present tense now and then that kind of pulled me out as a reader, pushing the story to a safer, middle distance. In that way, all the uncomfortable aspects came off more clinically . . . as if the whole tale is being played out and observed from behind one of those windows in an interrogation room.

I’m sure if I thought about it longer, I would have a lot more to write, but if you want food for thought with regard to each and every chapter of this book, as well as the author’s own ruminations on his most famous character, I recommend this site.

Harris apparently hasn’t given an interview since 1976, but according to fellow novelist, Stephen King, Harris finds writing to be like “writhing on the floor in agonies of frustration . . . the very act of writing is a kind of torment.” I think you can sense that when you read what he had to say about creating the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the link above.

As a suspense novel, as a thriller, The Silence of the Lambs definitely deserves the five star ranking I gave it.


Originally posted 2012-07-05 14:36:24.

“Thriller Thursday” Preview and How Suspense Fits In

Present word count of WIP:  59,427

They say not all thrillers are suspense novels and not all suspense novels are thrillers. So what’s the difference? And how does Mystery fit in?

It remains confusing in my mind, but I like Maeve Maddux’s delineation here. Nevertheless, I think one of the reasons I’m taking on this huge reading project is to help me clarify these genres.

As defined by International Thriller Writers, you can characterize a true thriller by “the sudden rush of emotions, the excitement, sense of suspense, apprehension, and exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a constant, breakneck pace.”

For a lengthier description of what makes a novel a thriller, I recommend this site.

For those of you who haven’t yet looked up NPR’s list of “Killer Thrillers,” these are the first 20 I’ll be devouring in order:

1. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris 

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

3. Kiss the Girls, by James Patterson

4. The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum

5. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

7. The Shining, by Stephen King 

8. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

9. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy

10. The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

11. Dracula, by Bram Stoker

12. The Stand, by Stephen King

13. The Bone Collector, by Jeffery Deaver

14. Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton 

15. Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown

16. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham

17. The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton

18. Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane

19. The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth

20. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

In all honesty, I’ve already read at least seven of these thrillers (I can’t recall for sure if I read “The Andromeda Strain” or if I’m simply remembering the movie). However, I am not going to skip over those I’ve already read. I’ll read ALL of them in order to gain the full perspective.

One of my readers, Bob, already contacted me about having read and/or seen the movie version of most on this list. I realized then that much of what we might think of these stories has likely been slanted either positively or negatively by their movie versions. I thought that would make for a couple of good questions to put to all of you:

How many of these first 20 have you actually read (before seeing the movie)? (If you only saw the movie, it doesn’t count.) Of those you have read, which would you rank at the top?




Originally posted 2012-06-28 13:16:14.

A Suspense Novels Diet

Present word count of WIP:  58,962

Suspense novels are thrilling . . . when read in moderation. At least, that’s my theory. And any good theory needs testing, right?

As I’ve written in this article, humans are geared for suspense, but is there such a thing as too much? Would a steady diet of suspense fiction keep you on the edge of your seat, or would it begin to seem repetitive?

I’ve decided to find out. Two years ago, NPR put out a list of the top 100 “Killer Thrillers” as voted on by their listeners, and I’m going to read and review every book on that list. Except for some books by friends, as well as other books I may have to judge for contests, I’m going on a “suspense diet.”

Beginning in July (after my daughter has left for California), each Thursday will be my “Thriller Thursday” in which I’ll post a review of one of the “Killer Thrillers.”

Granted, it may take me 3-5 years to get through the whole list, but I’m game. (Note: I’m also perfectly willing to set a book aside if it proves too gory, violent, vulgar, or salacious. This may well cut the list in half, but at least I’ll get through it quicker.)

#1 on the list and first up: The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (Shudder!)

I want to find out two things:

1) Will they continue to thrill or become repetitive?

2) What kind of effect will such a reading diet have on me personally?

What do you think the answers to those questions will be a year from now? I’d love to hear your own theories.

Originally posted 2012-06-22 22:53:42.

“Monday Mystery” – CROOKED HOUSE

Marlene Bateman has another brand new Erica Coleman Mystery out, entitled CROOKED HOUSE. And I am honored and pleased to kick off its blog tour.

ACrooked House Blog BANNER with dates


Someone is trying to kill Liz Johnson and it’s up to quirky private investigator, Erica Coleman, to find out who. Erica is no stranger to murder and mystery, which is why her best friend’s daughter, Megan, turns to her when unaccountable and potentially fatal “accidents” threaten her roommate’s life.

Once Erica arrives at the ramshackle old mansion known as Crooked House, matters go from disturbing to deadly as it becomes clear someone is trying to kill Liz. As Erica begins to unearth secrets, she discovers a twisted web of love, money, greed, and deception. Although the police and friends sometimes find Erica’s OCD annoying, its those very traits that help her sift through evidence and see clues that others miss. Erica must draw upon her all her investigative prowess to keep Liz safe and unmask the killer before he can accomplish his deadly objective.

With a dash of romance and surprising twists, this thrilling mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. As with all Erica Coleman mysteries, ten delicious recipes are included.

A Cover for A Crooked House


“I’m scared.”

Erica’s heart turned over when she heard the quaver in her young friend’s voice on the phone.

Then Megan asked, “Can you come?”

“Of course.” Erica’s reply was automatic. She would do anything she could to help. Although she often received emotionally-laden phone calls in her job as a private investigator, there was a difference when the call came from the teen-aged daughter of her best friend. The very fact that Megan—who was usually so calm and composed—sounded frightened out of her wits, put Erica on high alert.

“I think someone’s trying to kill my roommate, Liz,” Megan said.

“What makes you think that?” Erica asked. “Has someone threatened her?”

“No, but Liz has had a couple of serious accidents lately—at least she says they’re accidents, but either one of them could have killed her.”

Erica made an effort to reel in her skepticism. “Tell me about them.”

“First, someone tampered with her car. The brakes went out and Liz ended up driving across someone’s yard and hitting a tree. Fortunately, she was okay. The second one happened downtown. Liz was on the sidewalk waiting for the bus when someone shoved her. She fell into the road. A truck was coming and if a guy hadn’t pulled her back, Liz could have been killed.”

Still, they could have been accidents, Erica thought, at least until the third one occurred—this time at Crooked House.

A picture of Marlene Bateman


Marlene Bateman was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan. Her hobbies include gardening, camping, reading, and enjoying her four cats and three dogs.

A Cover for Motive for MurderMarlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder—the first in a mystery series that features Erica Coleman, a quirky private eye with OCD. The next book in that line, (they do not have to be read in order) is A Death in the Family.

A Cover for A Death in the FamilyMarlene has also written a number of LDS non-fiction books under the name Marlene Bateman Sullivan. Those books include: Gaze Into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, which is a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints, Heroes of Faith, and Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines. Marlene also wrote three books about documented accounts in early LDS church history when a person either saw or heard an angel; Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, And There Were Angels Among Them, and By the Ministering of Angels.

All three mysteries in the series are available in such physical bookstores as Deseret Book and Seagull Book, as well as online at Amazon, Deseret Book, and Seagull Book.

For more information about the author, check out her website as well as my previous  interview with her.

Originally posted 2015-04-20 06:00:11.

“Monday Mystery” – THE MYSTERIOUS DOLL (Amelia Moore Detective Series)

Here is the latest mystery in Linda Weaver Clarke’s series. Amelia Moore, the founder of the Moore Detective Agency, specializes in missing persons. Her cases have taken her to some very interesting places and put her in some dangerous situations, but she always solves the case. With the help of her partner, Rick Bonito, the business is flourishing and now she’s got another case:

Mysterious Doll web


Pauline Jones is confused why her boyfriend took off without telling a soul where he was going. But that isn’t all. Sam Whitaker is accused of stealing a valuable porcelain doll from the museum. His disappearance makes him look guilty, but Pauline is convinced he is innocent. When Amelia finds Sam, she realizes they need to prove his innocence. Where is the antique doll and who has taken it?


As she closed the drawer, a young woman walked through the door with red-rimmed eyes. It looked as if she had been crying, and Amelia could tell she was upset.

“You’ve just got to help me,” said Pauline as she pushed her thick dark hair out of her eyes. “Sam’s innocent. He didn’t do it.” With a look of despair, she softly said, “Sam didn’t steal that porcelain doll. He’s not a thief. He’s been framed.”

As Amelia sat down, she motioned to a chair in front of her desk. “Please have a seat, Miss Jones.”

Pauline walked to the chair and sat down. She then took a calming breath and said, “A porcelain doll was stolen from the museum.”

Amelia nodded. “I read about it in the paper.”

“Well, the very day it disappeared… so did Sam. The police think he took it.” She wrung her hands and said adamantly, “But it’s not true.”

“Tell me why you think he’s innocent,” said Amelia.

“Because I know him. He wouldn’t do such a thing. Not Sam. He’s too smart for that. Besides, why would he become a thief just before asking me to marry him?”

Amelia raised a curious brow. “How do you know he was going to propose?”

Pauline leaned forward and said, “It wasn’t hard to figure out. A woman can tell those kinds of things. Lately we’ve been talking about a more serious relationship. But that isn’t all. I accidentally found an engagement ring in his glove compartment. Of course, I didn’t tell him. I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.’

When Amelia laughed, a slight smile tugged at Pauline’s lips.

After a moment, Pauline became sober as she asked, “Miss Moore, will you please find him for me?”



Linda Weaver Clarke travels throughout the United States, teaching people to write their family history and autobiography. She has traveled to seventeen states and given over 450 workshops. Clarke is the author of several historical sweet romances, a mystery/adventure series, a children’s book, and a cozy mystery series. All her books are family friendly.

(If you want to know more about Linda, check out my earlier interview with her here.)

THE MYSTERIOUS DOLL can be purchased online from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. In fact, all her e-books are available at Smashwords.

Originally posted 2015-02-02 09:37:13.